Pac-12 M5: 11.27.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 27th, 2013

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  1. Tuesday night was not a banner night in the Pac-12. Playing in big tournaments against powerful East Coast teams, a pair of conference schools whiffed on their chances. First California, playing in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational, got the bad news prior to tip-off that senior forward Richard Solomon would miss the game due to a corneal abrasion suffered in the late stages of Monday night’s win over Arkansas. Against a big Syracuse team, the Golden Bears could have really used him. Still, it was the Orange perimeter guys that did Cal in, as Mike Montgomery’s team couldn’t stop Tyler Ennis, Trevor Cooney, Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair (who combined for 84 of Syracuse’s 92 points) as the Bears faded late. They’ll play rising Dayton in the third place game this evening, a game that could look a lot better four months from now if they notch the victory.
  2. Stanford, on the other hand, was never really competitive in its 19-point loss against Pitt in the championship game of the Legends Classic. The Cardinal struggled with some foul trouble early, but all in all were out-toughed, out-coached and out-defended in a one-sided affair. While the opponent is without question a quality basketball club, head coach Johnny Dawkins just took another little step toward a new job.
  3. If you’ve watched a UCLA game this year, you’ve probably noticed loads of empty Pauley Pavilion seats in the background. Given that the Bruins have a storied program considered among the blue bloods of college basketball, a new head coach, and a wildly entertaining ball club, what gives? Well, aside from a spoiled and apathetic fan base, Los Angeles traffic and starting times past the wine-and-cheese crowd’s bedtime, maybe the hefty ticket prices play a part in the reason? As reported by Vividseats.com, UCLA has the sixth-highest ticket prices in all of college basketball, with a median price of $95 a seat before counting in a required donation to the Wooden Athletic Fund.
  4. Utah basketball is making its move in the basketball facilities arms race, as on Monday its athletic department kicked off a fundraising effort in preparation for a new basketball center to be used by both the men’s and women’s teams. The fundraising plan calls for $36 million in donations, with $24 million going to the new facility, to be called the John M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Center. The remaining $12 million will go towards renovations to the Huntsman Center, including the construction of suites and a new scoreboard. Ideally, if all goes as planned, constructions on both projects will be completed prior to the 2015-16 season.
  5. For the second consecutive night, we close with some bad news coming out of the Washington basketball program. This one, however, is a little more serious as it deals with a medical condition affecting one of its players, Shawn Kemp, Jr. Head coach Lorenzo Romar announced on Tuesday that Kemp is dealing with Graves’ disease, an auto-immune disorder that, among other things, causes fatigue in those afflicted with it, accounting for some of Kemp’s struggles this season. Kemp has been dealing with this issue since July, but the good news is that the disease is treatable and Kemp’s future in basketball is not endangered by this diagnosis. We wish him the very best of luck in overcoming it.
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Is It Time For Washington to Embrace a Four-Guard Lineup?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 22nd, 2013

Things have not started well for Washington. After being on the outside looking in the last two seasons come NCAA Tournament time, there was quite a bit of optimism around the program, what with a McDonald’s All-American coming in at point guard, a big-time scorer on the wing returning for his senior season, and a whole host of big men up front to interchange. Now here we are, a couple weeks into the year and the Huskies already have a couple of losses, including an 18-point blowout last night against Indiana, as well as some injury issues along the frontcourt. Right now this team doesn’t look like a squad anywhere near the top of the Pac-12.

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Certainly the injuries are part of the issue. Veteran forward Desmond Simmons is out until Christmas shopping is well underway following a knee surgery, while versatile sophomore big man Jernard Jarreau is out for the year after tearing his ACL two minutes into the season. After those setbacks, Lorenzo Romar was left with just three options up front: senior center Perris Blackwell, junior forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., and sophomore center Gilles Dierickx. Blackwell, a transfer from San Francisco, is a good, skilled post man, but at the end of the day he’s an earthbound 6’8” center. Kemp is nice in theory, but his production has never begun to approach the hype generated by his name. And Dierickx? This isn’t a guy meant to be on the court at this point in his career in big-time college basketball, as his offense lags significantly behind his defense. Thursday night against Indiana, the weaknesses of those three were made abundantly clear. Kemp fouled out in nine minutes, Blackwell had a double-double but was regularly abused by the more athletic Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, and the team as a whole grabbed a woeful 41.2 percent of their opponent’s missed shots. And despite seven blocked shots, there isn’t a great rim protector on this team.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 16th, 2013

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  1. After a stretch of several months where most of the news coming out of Westwood was of the bad variety, UCLA finally found some good news waiting for them on Tuesday when forward Wanaah Bail was granted eligibility to play immediately for the Bruins after transferring out of the Texas Tech program. While Bail is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, if and when he is healthy enough to go, he’ll be expected to provide much-needed depth in the frontcourt behind the senior Wear twins and sophomore center Tony Parker. Still, despite the good news, some Bruin followers have chosen to paint this as, somehow, another strike against new head coach Steve Alford before the guy has even gotten to the plate. Seriously though, Alford had the temerity to answer a question about comparing John Wooden to his former college head coach, Bobby Knight. I mean, get a rope, right?
  2. Turning back to UCLA’s biggest rival in the conference, Arizona is considered the prohibitive favorite by most prognosticators, but the one weakness most people look to nitpick is the team’s possible lack of outside shooting. The team loses four of their top five three-point shooters from last season and their most ballyhooed newcomers, namely freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are known for just about anything on the basketball court except long-range shooting. Nevertheless, newly eligible transfer T.J. McConnell is a 41.6% three-point shooter for his career, junior guard Nick Johnson improved to a 39.3% three-point shooter last season, and guys like sophomore Gabe York (despite his one-for-nine shooting in the Red-Blue game) and Kansas transfer Zach Peters are expected to chip in from range. Meanwhile, even sophomore Brandon Ashley has worked to expand his range out toward the three-point line.
  3. Speaking of T.J. McConnell, while anyone who never saw him play in his first two seasons of collegiate eligibility at Duquesne can look at the numbers and see a guy who can knock down the three as well as drop a dime (KenPom, paywall) with the best of them, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been talking up McConnell’s ability to get after it on defense. The Wildcats’ defensive efficiency has improved every season under Miller (again, KenPom, paywall), but if McConnell can live up to Miller’s hype, he’s definitely got a versatile enough frontcourt to match up with just about any opponent, what with Kaleb Tarczewski’s ability to out-physical true posts, Ashley’s length and athleticism advantage over  most fours, Gordon’s ability to guard any number of positions, and Jefferson’s toughness and length. Throw in the already established Nick Johnson, whose ability to annoy the heck out of opposing ball-handlers far away from the hoop can be disruptive enough on its own, and this Wildcat squad is a good bet to improve on the team’s defensive numbers from a year ago.
  4. For some reason, we haven’t talked a lot about Colorado so far these past couple of weeks (something we will remedy soon enough), but the Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams who can legitimately challenge Arizona for conference supremacy. Things will be a bit easier for the Buffs this season, especially around Boulder, as season tickets for the Coors Event Center have sold out for the first time in CU history. With a student section that has evolved into one of the best in the conference, and now the full Boulder community also committed to supporting the team, expect the Rocky Mountain swing to be one of the least welcoming road trips on the Pac-12 schedule.
  5. We’ll wrap up the morning by pointing you to a thorough rundown on the Washington basketball roster by Ben Knibbe (follow him now) at the UW Dawg Pound. Yesterday he took you through the high post players Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons (and offered the saddest of lines for a Husky fan: “Aaron Gordon would have been…”). Last week he broke down wings C.J. Wilcox, Hikeem Stewart, Darin Johnson and Mike Anderson. And the week before that he filled you in on point guard options Andrew Andrews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jahmel Taylor. Certainly, we’ll get the breakdown on low posts Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp in the near future, but you’ll need to keep up with Ben (seriously, follow him now) in order to get the best position-by-position rundown you’ll find around the Pac-12 team blogs.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on February 6th, 2013

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  1. At least one UCLA site thinks that Ben Howland‘s time at UCLA is essentially over after this year. But if Dan Guerrero remains athletic director, there’s a slim chance he could stay around. If UCLA were to perform better than expected in the NCAA Tournament — such as a run to the Final Four — the idea is that Guerrero would be inclined keep Howland around. Additionally, Guerrero hasn’t fired Howland yet this year despite some ups and downs from the Bruins. UCLA had its early season struggles, of course, but they were able to turn it around for a little while at least. Now, though, the Bruins have reverted to playing poorly by losing three out of their last four games. If Guerrero is ultimately fired, then Howland would certainly also be replaced by the new athletic director. Whatever the case ends up being, barring a Pac-12 title and a deep NCAA Tournament run, this year could be the end of Ben Howland’s time as UCLA’s head coach.
  2. Shawn Kemp Jr.‘s play down low was a major factor for Washington in its win against Arizona State over the weekend. Aziz N’Diaye suffered an eye injury and was forced to go to the bench for stitches. In came Kemp with a jumper, a dunk, and some precise footwork in the post. The Husky reserve finished with 18 points and six rebounds, but more importantly, he finally looked comfortable for the first time since returning from his patella tendon injury. If Kemp can hit jump hooks in the post and continue to be a threat down low, it could open the floor up for Washington’s guards and propel the Huskies to a strong finish in the Pac-12.
  3. Despite an ejection from Saturday’s game against Washington State, Sean Miller won’t suspend Kevin Parrom. Parrom was dismissed in the middle of the first half for a punch to DaVonte Lacy in the face. Miller said that the officials made the right call in  tossing his player and that he was very disappointed in his senior’s behavior. Parrom is known for being a physical player, but in this case, he lost control and it didn’t benefit him. Ultimately, Miller was displeased with the incident but doesn’t see this as a recurring thing and knows that the Wildcats will need his 8.2 points per game going forward to charge at a league title in the ever-changing Pac-12.
  4. Although Herb Sendek kept his Arizona State team in the locker room later than normal after its weekend loss to Washington to let his team know that they just got out-worked, the Sun Devils’ success cannot be ignored. At the midpoint of conference play, Arizona State is 6-3, something that seemed unimaginable in the beginning of January especially after they were predicted to finish 11th in the league. However, the Sun Devils don’t want to settle for a better than expected finish. Their goal is to make the NCAA Tournament. In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection, Arizona State was one of the last four teams in. But in order to continue their success and stay in the field of 68, the Sun Devils will need to protect their home floor with upcoming games against California and Stanford this week and play well on the road as they finish with five of their last seven away from home.
  5. Oregon’s star freshman Dominic Artis is close to returning from his foot injury. Artis has missed the last three games and his team is just 1-2 in those contests and have committed a dismal 65 turnovers. They lost last weekend to Cal and Stanford and have opened up a Pac-12 race that once heavily favored the Ducks. Oregon’s Johnathan Loyd, who has started in the absence of Artis, is also dealing with an injury and is practicing with a wrap around his hand. Dana Altman wasn’t ready to say that either of them would play Thursday against Colorado, and if neither can go, freshman Willie Moore would get the start.
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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

  • T1. Florida (11-5)
  • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
  • T1. Georgia (11-5)
  • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
  • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
  • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

SEC West

  • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
  • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
  • T3. Alabama (7-9)
  • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
  • 4. LSU (4-12)
  • 5. Auburn (3-13)

All-Conference Team

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
  • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
  • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
  • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

6th Man

Travis Leslie – Georgia

Impact Newcomers

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
  • F Patric Young – Florida
  • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
  • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

What You Need To Know

  • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
  • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

  • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

  • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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